NEW PALTZ – The State University of New York at New Paltz Department of Theatre Arts presents an inventive production of “Fat Ram,” a medieval Christmas play, Nov. 30 – Dec. 4 in Parker Theatre on the New Paltz campus.
Adapted and translated by Dan Kempton, associate professor in the department of English, and directed by Stephen Kitsakos, assistant chair in the department of theatre arts, “Fat Ram” is a version of two religious medieval plays from the 15th century: “The Second Shepherds Play” and “Doubting Joseph.” The plot centers around the Christmas story as told in the Gospel of St. Luke. “Doubting Joseph” concerns Joseph who arrives home to discover his wife Mary is pregnant, although they have not had intimacy. He believes that she has been unfaithful. She in turn tries to clarify the situation by explaining that an angel told her that God is the father. To give this production a contemporary connection, “muppets” have been employed. The play begins outside of Parker Theatre where an innovative pageant wagon with muppets, actors, a pageant master, played by James Schiffer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Augie, the campus border collie, arrives.
“We are trying to honor the sense of community as well as the sensibility of the plays that were performed during this period of time,” said Kitsakos, “and the sense of humor of those living in this period was quite different. Using muppets and puppets should give modern audiences permission to laugh.”
For the next part of the play, the audience is ushered inside of the theatre where they enter a medieval world, and the story of “The Second Shepherds Play” is presented. This portion of the play follows three shepherds while they spend the night on the moor and encounter a notorious sheep thief. Misinformation, false starts, chases and a vision ends up with a kidnapped, misused, rescued ram and a journey from the fields of England to the sands of the Holy Land in search of the Savior of Mankind.
To tell this story, the cast uses some stagecraft in the form of puppets – an animated fat ram and an enormous camel ridden into Bethlehem by the shepherds as well as a flying angel.
Broadway actor Anika Larsen, who starred as Kate Monster in “Avenue Q,” is consultant for the play. Both translations are by Daniel Kempton, a medieval scholar in the department of English. The medieval set was designed by student Zac Bailis; costumes are by Andrea Varga, assistant professor in the department of theater arts and her student, Danielle Jordan; lighting by John Wade, professor and chair of the department of theater arts, and his student, Jackie Wolozin; sound by student Patrick Kiernan; and the puppets and muppets were designed by art students, Tine Regula and Kat Patterson. Joel Evans, assistant professor in the department of music is serving as a music consultant and Connie Rotunda, assistant professor in the department of theater arts is the movement coach. Dialect and speech work is by Nancy Saklad, associate professor in the department of theater arts.
“Fat Ram” is recommended for children over 10 years of age and adults of all ages. Performances are Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2, 3, at 8 p.m. and Dec. 3, 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office, located in Parker Theatre, by phone at 845-257-3880, or buy tickets now at http://www.newpaltz.edu/theatre/. Tickets prices are $18 reserved general, $16 reserved seniors, SUNY New Paltz faculty & staff, non-SUNY New Paltz students, $9 SUNY New Paltz students.